Writing about the abuse scandal within the Church is probably the topic I would least like to write on. Still the recent stories regarding McCarrick (now Archbishop and left off intentionally) and the investigative grand jury report in Pennsylvania make is necessary.
I started blogging in 2002, so this crisis has been with me the whole time to some extent. I am rather annoyed at myself when I analyze my own reactions to this continuous news cycle. Annoyed that I often feel more about the black eye it gives the Church than the horrific stories of lives severely damaged by abuse and coverup. Maybe partially this is fatigue from the sheer number of stories and how this has replicated itself across the world. Still I know I should be more affected by these tragic stories. This total betrayal of Christ. The bad news that has been preached by the examples of clerical abusers and those who helped to keep this in the dark. These sins that cry out to Heaven for relief.
It amazes me when I hear stories of such abuse, and yet that person remained faithful to the Church. It is easy for me to intellectualize my faith and that I believe the Catholic Church is the one holy and apostolic church, not having been through such a trial. Yet the coverups and business-as-usual attitudes that have repeated themselves world-wide is what scandalizes me the most. Treated either with bureaucratic-indifference or active attempts to conceal crimes.
This is like a perfect storm for Satan. The world needs what the Catholic Church teaches. So many sins and errors of our time could find comfort in the truth of what the Church teaches. Yet the world will shout HYPOCRISY! when people within the Church who don’t practice what the Church teaches and do otherwise. I think it was author Neal Stephenson who referenced that hypocrisy is the last remaining sin in a world of moral relativism.
It is a cold comfort to know that much of this abuse happened over a specific period of time and that it seems to have trailed off. Although I am skeptical as to whether this is indeed the case. Reporting of abuse is often long delayed and so only time will tell if this is actually the case.
This story, like most stories, is going through a narrative filter. Hobbyhorses are mounted with solutions fitting the horse’s mouth. Some try to make it a conservative/liberal bishop divide even though there is much shame to be shared across this divide. Or increased calls for a married priesthood.
This is not one of those “The Church should do X” posts. Mainly because I can not fully grasp what specifically are the steps forward. Exactly how do you reform diocese to eliminate the attitudes that made the happen? New rules, programs, workshops, training, etc are unlikely to diminish a diocesan culture that enabled this. They may only be steps in the right direction.
My own hobbyhorse would be what I perceive as a loss of mission focus at every level. Never seen a mission statement at a parish that talked about salvation of souls. A plethora of buzzword initiatives with little mention of Jesus’ salvific mission to save us from our sins. A diocesan culture that is more concerned about PR than actual scandal and the damage done to those who trip over that stumbling block. Sure this very pattern has been reflected across all human activity, yet shouldn’t we be more spiritually aware of this hubris? Still I know that my hobbyhorse is too narrow and not a “if only the Church did this” action plan.
Really there are no easy fixes and reform is a never ending process. It requires eternal vigilance since even when you take positive steps to irradiate one problem, the whack-a-mole of human sinfulness keeps popping up. This does not mean that I am hopeless in regards to this. There is a lot of anger right now and I do pray that some of this heat will also emit as light. That platitudes and corporate-speak from the USCCB and individual bishops just isn’t going to cut it.
One thing that really needs to be addresses is how McCarrick not only rose, but was a power player in selecting new American Cardinals. There had to be a lot of enablers along the way that looked away from his not-so-private life. I still remember this story from 2005 on the now-disgraced archbishop. Two years ago the recently deceased investigator Richard Sipe Tried to Warn Us – But No One Was Listening when he tried to work with the current bishop of San Diego. I expect white washed tombs in regard to this. Please prove me wrong.
Some patience is of course required. This is not a problem to solve overnight and their are serious difficulties in regards to investigating various diocese – canonical and otherwise. Any actual investigative efforts must come from the Pope and the Vatican. The skeptic in me sees a punt on this like the LCWR investigation. Again please prove me wrong.
As a pessimistic/optimist I straddle the fence emotionally. Not that happy to say “told you so” and not disappointed to be wrong (once again). Besides whenever my focus turns towards negativity I try to evaluate “what can I do” besides blowing off steam on a blog post. I can pat myself on the back for praying for the Pope and the Bishops, but no doubt can also slap my forehead for when I fail to advance in holiness. I know conversion starts with myself.
Picture: Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro speaks at an Aug. 14 press conference following the release of a grand jury report on clerical sexual abuse in six of Pennsylvania’s Catholic dioceses. (NBC Philadelphia)